Sweden votes, with the extreme right in an unprecedented position of strength
A new European country with a far-right government or a third term for the left? Sweden started voting on Sunday after a campaign of maximum tension and a novel scenario dominated by crime and inflation.
Until these general elections, the traditional Swedish right had never considered governing with direct or indirect support from the Democrats of Sweden (SD).
Lange Paria, the nationalist and anti-immigrant party, is on track to claim an unprecedented second place and become the first formation of a new right-wing bloc, according to polls.
Outgoing prime minister, Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson, is hoping to remain in power for the left for a third straight four-year term on the basis of a “red-green” package.
The campaign was dominated by issues likely to favor the right-wing opposition: crime and deadly gang settlements, rising fuel and electricity prices, problems integrating immigrants…
But Ms Andersson’s solid popularity, whose trust rating exceeds that of her Tory rival Ulf Kristersson, and the bogeyman of the far right speak for the left.
All five pollsters give the red-green camp a very slight edge in their final laps, but all are within error and the numbers have been ultra-tight for weeks.
– touch touch –
The Social Democrat-led Left Bloc – Sweden’s largest party since the 1930s – with expected support from the Greens, Left Party and Center Party, is credited with between 49.6% and 51.6%.
The sum of the right – SD, Moderate Party (Conservative), Christian Democratic Party and Liberal Party – ranges from 47.6% to 49.4%.
Online betting sites give Magdalena Andersson a slightly better chance of winning (1.6 to one) than Ulf Kristersson (2.2 to one).
“It’s very, very tight,” remarked the prime minister as he exited the polling station late Sunday morning.
The day before, on her final campaign day, she said she was “concerned about a government totally dependent on Sweden’s Democrats (…) It would be a different Sweden that we would have for four years”.
In the last two weeks of the election campaign, the SD, led in the fifth election by its leader Jimmie Åkesson, has overtaken the moderates in the polls by about 19-21%, a new record.
“My country completely changed when it was maybe the safest in the world,” Ulrika, a 56-year-old SD voter, told AFP. She attributes responsibility “to the other cultures that come into the country.”
Conversely, for 34-year-old left-wing voter Erwin Marklund, who works in IT, it is “important not to let the extreme right into the system”.
Led for the second time by Ulf Kristersson, the moderates lost some 16-18% of ground in the latest opinion polls, raising concerns within the party.
In Sweden, the post of prime minister traditionally goes back to the first party of the winning alliance.
But the traditional right-wing parties are just as hostile to a return to the SD as they are to taking office.
On the left, too, the exact form of an executive branch emerging from the polls remains shrouded in uncertainty, with disagreements between left and center parties.
But political scientists say a political crisis similar to that following the 2018 election – four months to go before the government is formed – is unlikely as camps are more delineated.
– 349 seats –
The victory of the far-right-backed right would open a new political era for Sweden, which must take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1 and complete its historic candidacy for NATO – also backed by the right.
Another victory for the left would render obsolete the rapprochement strategy of the Moderates, Sweden’s second largest party for more than 40 years.
A total of 349 seats will be allocated proportionally to parties that achieve at least 4%. To be invested, a prime minister does not need to have 175 votes or more against him, but not necessarily an absolute majority in his favour.
Almost 7.8 million voters are called to the polls in a country of 10.3 million people, with a traditionally very high turnout (87% in 2018).
Polling stations close at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT) when two exit polls are expected. More reliable partial results should be available about two hours later.
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